As I left the premier showing of Star Trek this evening, I was very tempted to go buy a ticket to the next one (if there were any left, which I doubt). On several levels–acting, characterization, special effects, soundtrack–the film was extraordinary. It was far more exhilarating than any other Star Trek, perhaps than any other science fiction, has ever been. It’s opening sequence is breathtaking and features several courageous acts of self-sacrifice. The story is suitably grand and daring, and the music and visuals are nothing short of stunning. Like on Battlestar Galactica and the climactic space battle in Serenity, the action has a realistic weight and inertia, heightened by the tight frame, frequent light flares and ample space debris.
I think what thrilled me the most, however, was the first jump to warp. For the first time since the original Star Wars, jumping to hyperspace actually felt like you just ripped a hole through space. And that is hardly the only similarity between this rebooted Star Trek and everyone’s favorite space opera. As Jeff Overstreet details, half the plot seems cribbed from Star Wars–even the corridors on the Enterprise remind me of a Rebel cruiser–yet without feeling the least bit stale or second-hand.
Unfortunatley, the other half of the plot is, well… I’m not sure a series of outrageous coincidences qualifies as a plot, yet that about sums it up: Kirk gets marooned on an ice planet and just so happens to get chased by a monster straight into a cave inhabited by the elderly time-traveling Spock? Now that might be plausible if Spock had traveled back to this planet intentionally, knowing Kirk would be here too. But no, Spock is here for an entirely different reason, and is as surprised to see Kirk as Kirk is to see him. No explanation for their chance occurrence is ever given, nor for the dozen coincidences that facilitate almost every other major advance in the story: how the Romulans ended up in the 23rd century–and at the very moment of Kirk’s birth, no less–how Kirk wound up in Star Fleet, how and when he met Uhura, Bones, Spock and Scotty, and plenty more that I won’t mention for fear of spoilers.
Thus I can’t help but feel conflicted about this new Star Trek. Whatever it’s failings it is epic and fantastically exciting, gritty and beautiful, and most of all it provides a perfect introduction to the central characters. It’s just a shame they didn’t have a better story to back them up, and that is what worries me. That the writers (the same who penned Transformers… yeah) can destroy entire worlds while barely stopping long enough to let us feel their significance, that they can pile impossible coincidence upon impossible coincidence with no more explanation than a half-joking wink, that they can completely disregard the laws of physics when it suits them–none of this bodes well for the future of a series that has always been about ideas and science as well as characters. It will sell a lot of tickets–I know I’ll be seeing it again!–but has it sacrificed story and theme for “sound and fury”?
This is no Phantom Menace, but is it A New Hope?